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Moyer v. Scana Corp.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

September 10, 2014

Edwina Moyer, [1] Plaintiff,
v.
SCANA Corporation d/b/a SCE&G Wateree Station Generating Plant, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendant's motions (1) to dismiss and strike, ECF No. 7, and (2) for sanctions, ECF No. 10. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss and strike is granted, and the motion for sanctions is denied without prejudice.[2]

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (B)(2)(g), D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Wallace Dixon for pre-trial proceedings and a Report and Recommendation ("Report"). On July 28, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that Defendant's motion to dismiss be granted to the extent the complaint purported to assert claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"). ECF No. 18 at 3-4 (recommending dismissal of such claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) because Plaintiff's administrative claim referred only to age discrimination).[3] The Report also recommended that Defendant's motion for sanctions be denied without prejudice. Id. at 5 (addressing sanctions motion as follows: "Last of all, it is recommended that the Defendant's motion for sanctions be denied with leave to refile at a later date if necessary."). In addition, the Report noted that Plaintiff had agreed to withdraw her prayer for punitive damages and had indicated that she intended to amend the complaint to name the correct entity as employer. Id. notes 1, 3. Finally, the Report recommended that a request to amend included in Plaintiff's response to Defendant's motion to dismiss be denied to the extent deemed a motion to amend the complaint. Id. n.4 (noting, inter alia, that the request was not a proper motion to amend because it failed to attach a proposed amended complaint).

The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. Plaintiff did not file any objections. Defendant objected only to the Report's failure to address its arguments for dismissal of Plaintiff's second cause of action for breach of contract. ECF No. 19 (incorporating and attaching its earlier memoranda, ECF Nos. 7, 13). Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's objections.

STANDARD

With respect to dispositive motions, the Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which a specific objection is made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). In the absence of an objection, the court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that "in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation") (internal citation omitted).

DISCUSSION

Title VII, Section 1981, and Punitive Damages Demand. There is no objection to the recommendation that any claim arising under Title VII or Section 1981 be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The court has, therefore, reviewed this recommendation for clear error. Finding none, the court dismisses any such claim arguably advanced by the complaint.

As to the demand for punitive damages, the Report states that "Plaintiff has agreed to withdraw her prayer for punitive damages." ECF No. 18 at 1. Plaintiff's actual statement was that she "will concede to striking her request for punitive damages." ECF No. 11 at 8. The court, therefore, strikes Plaintiff's prayer for punitive damages.

Sanctions. As there is no objection to the recommendation that Defendant's motion for sanctions be denied without prejudice, the court has reviewed that recommendation for clear error. Finding none, the court adopts this recommendation and denies the motion for sanctions without prejudice.

Amendment of Pleadings. The court also agrees that Plaintiff has, to this point, failed to assert a proper motion to amend. The court, therefore, denies leave to amend without prejudice to consideration of a proper motion to amend at a later time, for instance to cure the apparent error in naming the parent corporation rather than Plaintiff's actual employer.[4]

Contract Claim. Defendant is correct that the Report fails to address its motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second cause of action. This breach of contract claim is founded on allegations that Defendant created a contract through mandatory language in an employee handbook. Defendant asks the court either to recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge for supplemental recommendations or to address this aspect of the motion to dismiss without a further Report. The court takes the latter course in the interest of advancing this matter without further delay.

As Defendant notes in its memoranda supporting the motion to dismiss, the complaint fails to identify any specific mandatory language in the employee handbook that Defendant allegedly breached. ECF No. 7 at 6-9; ECF No. 13 at 2-3. Plaintiff's memorandum in opposition to Defendant's ...


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